The Babysitting Chronicles: When the Babysitter Lies to You

The Babysitting Chronicles: When the Babysitter Lies to You

A Parent's Nightmare

My husband and I are really lucky when it comes to childcare.  When we go out, we have a built in babysitter anxious and willing to spend a few, uninterrupted hours with our child: Grandma.  And while we don’t always agree with what transpires while we are out, in general, the household rules are followed.
 
But every so often, Grandma is not available and we need to hire a babysitter. We have had good experiences with the teenage sitters in our neighborhood.  Our household rules are pretty lax (yes, K can watch t.v., no, there is no set bed time while we are out. Occasionally, K might mention that the sitter was too strict or wouldn’t let her have dessert. We don’t consider that to be a major issue even if our child does.
But what happens when the babysitter tells your kid to keep something secret from her parents and flat out lies to you when you ask her about it? We recently experienced this situation and are wondering about the actions we should take.
 
While attending a theater event on a Sunday afternoon, one of the neighborhood teenagers (who was highly recommended to us) agreed to watch our child.  While we were gone, a few minor calamities occurred: balls flying and landing on the roof, a few toys breaking from misuse and a sketchy decision by our daughter to use suntan lotion as a way to “draw” on the driveway.  None of these things is a big deal to me.  Really… I have done and experienced much worse first as a child and then as a mother.  What I struggle with is the decision to “let’s just not tell your parents” by the sitter.
 
Note, there are three basic rules in my house:

  1. Be courteous to ourselves and one another
  2. Safety first.  Before doing something ask yourself if this is safe.
  3. No secrets from Mom or Dad.  It is much better to just tell your parents what’s going on rather than keeping it inside and letting them find out about it later.

 

When we arrived home from the theater and subsequent dinner around 9 p.m.. My husband took some trash out of the car  went to throw it away in a large garbage can that sits outside of our house.  The next day was “trash day” so the can wasfull with the weekend’s refuse.  He stopped short and stared into the bin.  Finally he called me over and asked me if I knew why there were so many wet paper towels filling the trash can.  Thinking that something had happened with one of our pets (we have an ancient cat and a large dog) we both ran into the house and called the babysitter’s name.

 

One can imagine our surprise when not one voice answered but two.  Our daughter was wide-awake, not in pajamas and watching a movie with the sitter.  Again, thinking that something had happened to the cat, I disregarded the non-sleeping child and asked the sitter and K if something had happened that necessitated the use of an entire roll of paper towels.  They both said “No” and assured us that the animals were fine.  But, I recognized a look in my daughter’s eyes; something was amiss.  There was something that she was not telling us. Call it “Mommy Senses” but I knew that my daughter was lying to her father and me as she ran passed me and up to her room. (No hug, no hello kiss, and no goodbyes to the sitter.)  For a child who hates to go to bed, she sure shot up to her room like her butt was on fire.

 

My husband stopped K on the stairs and with a little pressure, she confessed that she had used sunscreen on the driveway to draw some pictures.  She admitted that the sitter gave her the paper towels and told her to “clean it up.”  While she was telling Adam the story, I turned to the sitter (who was still standing on the stairs landing with me) and asked her where she was while K was drawing on the driveway?  “Ordering the pizza.” she replied. Adam surprisingly had heard her response and called down the stairs, “Well, you know, the worst things can happen when you take your eyes off of them for 20 seconds.”

 
In typical middle-child tradition, I tried to break the tension by first shrugging my shoulders as if this was not a big deal and then, of course because I was a bit nervous, giggling. I have to admit that I was afraid if we questioned the kid too much that we would make her cry.  The sitter admitted to me that she was going to tell us about the ball landing on the roof and that she was really sorry about it.  Again, now wanting to create tension, I just shrugged it off and said that it was no big deal.  But…at the time, I didn’t know what she told my child: “Don’t tell your parents about the sunscreen.  Let’s just keep it a secret.” Had I known, I would have stopped giggling immediately.

WHAT? 

 

Why wouldn’t the sitter want to tell us about the sunscreen?  Was she afraid that she’d get in trouble?  That we’d never hire her again?  Kids do all sorts of stupid things when you turn your back.  Weren’t we paying her to watch our child?  If she was getting PAID wasn’t it her responsibility to give us a (brief) but concise rundown on what occurred while we were gone including any problems she or our child may have encountered?  What else is being kept from us?

 

Fortunately between my mommy-senses and K’s guilt of keeping secrets from her parents, we were able to pull even more of the story out of our daughter.  After she told us about the whole evening. (By now, I had dismissed the sitter and sent her home.) We reminded K of the three household rules.  Imagine her surprise when I told her that we weren’t going to punish her for sunscreening the driveway because she told us the truth (and because she had already cleaned up the mess.)  We felt that the more important lesson was to tell the truth without our needing to pull it out of her.

 

What to do about the babysitter?   I want to let it go (so non-confrontational of me, isn’t it) and never hire this sitter again.  But my husband (and my mother) pointed out that we may not be helping this kid if we don’t approach her about the incident and at least give her a chance to explain.  As an employee (we did pay her, after all) shouldn’t we talk to her and advise her about why being truthful is essential to trust and how she has lost ours?  Or should we call this kid’s parents and discuss the incident with them?  After all, she is not our child to reprimand, right? Shouldn’t the parents be made aware of their child’s poor choice?  Should we share our experience with other parents and caution them about this sitter? Or is there another option that we haven’t considered?

 

So, what do you think?  If you were in this situation, how would you handle it?  Would you do something different?  Is it really our responsibility to confront a teenager or is it better to just lay low and find another sitter?

  • Sabrina

    You have two choices, don’t use her again or give her chance to explain and tell her what you’ll be expecting of her in the future.